Golf uses offseason to heal up, refine skills

Junior Kristian Tannum Donaldson was an Atlantic 10 All-Conference selection last season. Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics

Ryan Grube, Staff Writer

As golf prepares to kick off the 2020 spring season, coach Matt Ball has one goal in mind for his team: get healthy.

“We got three out of seven guys hurt,” Ball said. “Not being healthy means they’re not getting to practice as much. They’ll be fine in the long run, but the start, who knows?”

The Rams enter the spring campaign with sophomores Cam Barackman and Ian Peng — as well as junior Kristian Tannum Donaldson — banged up. 

Ball countered the injuries with a positive report on the rest of the team. He said the other guys have been progressing well, working out the kinks that come with a lengthy off-season.

The months that make up the off-season can be difficult for golfers. The cold weather and shortened days often make it tough for players to practice different shots and work on course management.

Luckily, for this year’s squad, the black and gold have enjoyed the luxury of a mild winter with very minimal snow.

“This has been a great winter. It’s been pretty warm,” Ball said. “The guys did a good job. Most of them got to play in tournaments over Christmas break, so it hasn’t been so long since they played and worked on [their game].”

Tannum Donaldson said his teammates’ game plan over the winter has been centered around working to maintain their skills going into the campaign.

“Just making sure we’re all still fresh, and keeping that work up wherever we went [for winter break],” Tannum Donaldson said. “Meeting up with coaches, making sure our swings are in a good position to start the spring.”  

The Rams will face their schedule with a solid blend of youth and veteran leadership. Ball called last year’s team — a roster that consisted of four freshman at the time — the most improved squad he’s ever coached.

Ball said the added experience heading into the spring season is an encouraging sign for what his players are capable of in 2020.

“Now they’re a little older, a little wiser,” Ball said. “It’s a good group. They’re all very familiar with their strategies. So, we’re just trying to get better, trying to push them a little harder and just help them progress and keep moving on.” 

The Rams are fresh off a fall season that consisted of three top-five team finishes, including a first-place win out of 16 teams at the Joe Feaganes Marshall Invitational in Huntington, West Virginia, on Sept. 10.

Ball and company also notched third place at the JT Poston Invitational in Sapphire, North Carolina, on Oct. 1.

Tannum Donaldson said the key to success this year is not being complacent about the fall results. He said the crew must continue to strive for better performances.

“Just making sure we’re not staying still, we’re always moving forward,” Tannum Donaldson said. “Challenging ourselves everyday with new drills and new ideas, and keeping that competitive spirit within the group.”

With the first tournament of 2020 in just a few days in Puerto Rico, Tannum Donaldson said the mindset doesn’t change with travel.

“It’s going to be a new place for all of us, so just making sure we’ve done our homework before we get there,” Tannum Donaldson said. “And then when we are there, making sure we come up with a good game plan to attack the golf course. Just like any other tournament, this is no different.” 

The Rams open the spring season on Sunday at the TPC Dorado Beach Collegiate in Dorado, Puerto Rico.

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